Archive of articles published in the 2006 issue.

Systers: The Electronic Community for Women in Computing

Almost 20 years ago, in 1987, seven women met at SOSP (Symposium on Operating Systems Principles). As the only women at the conference they all felt like outsiders, so they banded together to be less isolated. At a dinner meeting, they discovered that they had many experiences in common. Anita Borg, one of those original seven, offered to host a mailing list for the group to continue their interactions. The name chosen for the group was “systers,” a wordplay on sisters and systems. As the systers list approaches its twentieth anniversary, it seems timely to reflect on its history and its current goals.

Education: Research by Another Name

By the time you hold this issue of CRN in your hands, the fall semester will be well underway. New students will be walking the hallways, revised course materials will be online and yes, that bane of all academics—committee meetings—will have returned. Hence, it seems appropriate to consider the continuum of research and education as we recommence our academic roles. I call it “the Tom Sawyer effect,” where Tom convinces a peer group that fence painting is a privilege. How many times have you lured students into research by calling it a class project?

Another Year, More Dollars

For the fifth—and probably last—year, it is my honor on behalf of the NSF and CISE to welcome you back after what I hope was a productive and relaxing summer. The coming year promises to be an important one for NSF and CISE, so in addition to commenting briefly on the year past I want to highlight some issues for the coming year. I have received a number of comments—almost all positive—on my article in the May 2006 issue of CRN ( I’m very pleased that it struck a responsive chord, and even more pleased to report that we are making good progress on the Computing Community Consortium (described in the May issue of CRN) and GENI ( and

Sustained Fall in Share of Undergrad CS Degrees Granted to Women

Computer science has the dubious distinction of being the only science field to see a fall in the share of its bachelor’s degrees granted to women between 1983 and 2002. Among all S&E fields tracked by the NSF, linguistics was the only other discipline to see its share of women drop—but it is a field where the majority of degrees (71 percent) are granted to women.

Innovation, Competitiveness Plans Advance, But Hurdles Ahead

Some high-profile legislative efforts to bolster U.S. competitiveness by fostering greater U.S.-based innovation have begun to move in Congress, putting the spotlight on the importance of increasing federal support of fundamental research, improving education efforts, and addressing needs in federal tax policy and workforce and immigration issues. But despite the positive action, there are a number of obstacles to enactment of these innovation plans including, most seriously, a perceived lack of support from the House Republican leadership.

CRA-W and CDC Form an Alliance for NSF’s New Program to Broaden Participation in Computing

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has always been a major source of support for activities aimed at diversifying science and engineering fields. So when NSF launched a visionary new program aimed specifically at increasing the participation of women and underrepresented minorities in computing, CRA’s Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research (CRA-W) partnered with the Coalition to Diversify Computing (CDC) to submit a proposal.

Research: On Being the Right Size

In 1928, the British geneticist J.B.S. Haldane wrote a now famous essay entitled On Being the Right Size, where he noted, “The most obvious differences between different animals are differences of size … it is easy to show that a hare could not be as large as a hippopotamus, or a whale as small as a herring. For every type of animal, there is a most convenient size, and a large change in size inevitably carries with it a change of form.” It was a cogent argument about surface area to volume ratios, structures, respiration and energy.

Are Computer Scientists Timid?

But, we’ve become too timid in many of the ambitions we collectively and individually have for our field. I start to come to that conclusion when I hear from our Program Directors that too few of the proposals they see offer truly innovative ideas that excite panels or themselves. While confirmatory or incremental work is essential, we must also have a continuous flow of exciting, innovative ideas (and the community must ensure they are well received, and then we must ensure they are funded).

Computing Community Consortium (CCC)

The time has come for the computing research community to unite in identifying and formulating large-scale research infrastructure needs that are critical to U.S. competitiveness in Information Technology. On March 10, 2006 the National Science Foundation (NSF), Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) released a solicitation calling for the computing research community to unite in the establishment of a Computing Community Consortium (CCC). The consortium is expected to be broad-based, with member institutions with strong research track records in computer science and engineering. CCC members are not individuals, but rather are comprised of higher education institutions, private and public sector organizations, and industry.